Managing director Annette Bucknall had enjoyed a long relationship with Nissan but, finding herself unable to meet the cost of bringing the dealership in line with the latest corporate identity (CI) requirements, the end was swift.
She says: “I told them that I could not afford the new CI and, therefore, not meet their standards.
I thought it would be treated as a cry for help to be honest, a warning that something needed to be done.”
At 9am on December 21, Nissan representatives arrived and Barons was no longer part of the network.
“The most important thing is to have a good relationship with your bank,” she says. “We received fantastic support and made sure there was good communication with them. I would also advise anybody in a similar situation ensures alternative funding is available; which we did.”
Bucknall says the new business operates a completely different model than before as it does not have the franchise to fall back on. However, she is in no doubt the new, independent, set-up is more relaxed.
“It got to the point where I would be thinking ‘are the brochures in the right place’, or ‘have the flags been washed’ and become totally focused on passing audits. We have pulled together and bonded as a ‘family’.”
Last year Barons sold around 300 new and 300 used Nissan vehicles; since becoming an independent it has sold around 500 used units across a range of marques. Although it has lost warranty and Mobility work, Bucknall says it has as many service hours booked as before.
She says: “We were very fortunate to have built an extremely good reputation in the area. The main task has been educating people that we are now what I call a ‘liquorice all-sorts’ retailer, not just one make.” The dealership now stocks more than 100 used cars starting from £2,000.
Bucknall has no intention of selling or becoming a franchisee again.
“I’m true to my word and when I told my staff we’re not going anywhere, I meant it. It would have been very easy to sell up, but as far as I was concerned, that was never going to happen; and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all my staff for their loyalty and support.”